Pentecost should be one of the most joyous, and most powerful of the Christian festivals. It conjures up images of wind, of movement, of fiery red flames. Powerful in its symbolism, it is not hard to imagine the spirit sweeping through the minds and lives and souls of those who received it, cleansing them, renewing them, and creating fresh vigour and hope.
The story of Pentecost as we have received it is a story of transformation, with many churches celebrating it as the true beginning of the Christian church. It is also a story about chaos. The disciples are sitting in a room waiting. They are somewhat anxious, have no idea what to do next, and probably fear for their future. Into this situation sweeps the disruptive spirit, turning lives upside down, stirring up passions, generating antagonism and changing the thinking and the vision of the disciples.
Each Pentecost, I find myself asking questions about whether it still has the power and dynamism of long ago. I wonder if the spirit still sweeps through our churches in the same chaotic way. I ponder whether as a church, we are still receptive to the notion of the winds of change blowing through our buildings, our community and our traditions.
While in modern times, the spirit does appear to have lost some of the force that it seems to have had in the story in Acts, nonetheless I think it has moved quite significantly in this church. I remember standing before you around 5 months ago and informing everyone that I had come to create some chaos in order to generate a place of possible transformation. I imagine many of you had no idea at the time what that might of meant. I could explain it terms of IIM theory, which states that change can only ever take place at the edge of chaos. Or I could equally explain this as a way of making room for the spirit to enter, a place where congregational vision for the future can be transformed, where the inflowing of the spirit can people to take risks and commit deeds of greatness.
The presence of the spirit, as the disciples found, fills us with a new belief in their abilities, abilities that allow God’s words to be heard and understood, and lives to be transformed. And this dynamic, living, powerful force will not only transform the lives of the faithful, but also the lives of those around them. The disciples and followers of Jesus were called to launch out into a new adventure, to walk on untrodden pathways, to go out in mission, to put aside their fear and uncertainty and to gain strength as a unified community. We are called to do no less.
The celebration of Pentecost challenges us to keep ourselves open to the spirit who seeks us. The spirit that, in the beginning, brooded over the chaos and brought forth creation; the spirit that drenched the community with fire and breath on the day of Pentecost is the same spirit that seeks to dwell within us and among us now. Amidst the brokenness and chaos and pain that sometimes come with being in community, the spirit searches for places to breathe in us, to transform us, to knit us together more deeply and wholly as the body of Christ, and to send us forth into the world.
May we continue to feel God’s breathe within us.
May we then blaze anew with the spirit.
Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine
Elizabeth is minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, beginning her ministry here in December 2018.
Over the years, she has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister.More from Rev Elizabeth Raine